By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY — The Governor’s Office on Monday pushed back against rumors that Gov. Robert Bentley will resign in April before any impeachment vote can happen in the Alabama House of Representatives.
A spokesperson from the Governor’s Office said Bentley has no plans to resign.
“Governor Bentley takes very seriously his call to serve as Alabama’s 53rd Governor, and considers it the greatest honor of his life,” his spokesperson, Yasamie August, said. “He has plans only to continue to serve the people of this state, and as he stated so clearly in his 2017 State of the State address, to ‘Finish the Race.’”
Reports from AL.com and Dothan station WTVY, which cited Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, were widely shared Monday. In an interview with WTVY, Henry said he expected Bentley would resign no later than next month to avoid a suspension from an impeachment delivered to the Senate.
“From what I’m hearing I would expect by mid-April that the governor either will have resigned or the impeachment committee will be moving at a very rapid pace,” Henry told WTVY.
The station cited other unnamed representatives but Henry was the only one who spoke on the record.
Henry, who has been a vocal critic of Bentley’s, was the first Alabama legislator to propose articles of impeachment against the Governor. In April 2016, Henry was influential in gathering the signatures needed to send the articles to the House committee now charged with investigating the Governor for possible impeachment.
The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously on March 9 to give its hired attorney the authority to move forward with the private investigation of the Governor.
The investigation had previously been paused at the request of Luther Strange while he was still serving as Alabama Attorney General. At the time, Strange said his office was conducting “necessary related work” that could overlap with the House’s investigation.
Legislators assumed it meant a criminal investigation, but Strange later denied it. His successor, Attorney General Steve Marshall, confirmed the investigation, appointing a special prosecutor to oversee the active criminal investigation.
Henry’s comments also come at a time when the Alabama Ethics Commission is set to meet next month on ethics complaints filed against the Governor.
If the evidence submitted at an April 5 meeting shows probable cause, a vote by the Commission could move the matter forward to the Attorney General’s Office or the appropriate District Attorney for presentation to a grand jury.
In total, Bentley could be under up to three criminal investigations in addition to the House’s political impeachment investigation, which could easily remove the Governor from his office.
If the House votes to deliver impeachment articles, the Governor will be suspended immediately and will remain suspended unless he his acquitted in a Senate trial.
“In other words, impeachment would immediately throw out the votes of Alabama citizens,” said Ross Garber, an attorney for Bentley’s office. “This is not something that can be done without due process and very substantial evidence of serious wrongdoing.”
There has been no date set for when the Judiciary Committee may meet again to discuss the articles of impeachment and the status of the AGO’s criminal investigation is unknown.
Bentley has been under fire from lawmakers and portions of the media since a sexual relationship with his former top political aide, Rebekah Mason, became public in March 2016.
Since then, lawmakers have been putting pressure on Bentley, who has been accused of using state funds and resources to facilitate his relationship with Mason. Two lawsuits filed last year also accuse the Governor of using ALEA as a political tool to get back at those who didn’t approve of his and Mason’s relationship.
August defended Bentley’s track record, noting a version of his Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative legislation recently passed the Alabama Senate.
“Even now, Governor Bentley is seeing to it that Alabama’s prison system is undergoing a fundamental transformation, once again solving a decades old problem in our state,” August said. “Governor Bentley has not stopped working tirelessly, along with his Cabinet and Staff and local partners to implement an ambitious agenda, his Great State 2019 Plan, to improve the lives of all Alabamians.”